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Invert Neurosci. 1997 Sep-Dec;3(2-3):251-9.

Alzheimer's drug design based upon an invertebrate toxin (anabaseine) which is a potent nicotinic receptor agonist.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville 32610-0267, USA.


Naturally occurring toxins can often serve as useful chemical tools for investigating signalling processes in nervous and other systems. Tetrodotoxin and alpha-bungarotoxin are prime examples of toxins which are widely used in neurobiological research. Some toxins may also become molecular models for designing new drugs. Usually drugs are small, non-peptide molecules, as these display better bioavailability, longer durations of action and are less likely to generate immune responses. The relatively large size and conformational flexibility of peptides and protein toxins makes them more challenging molecular models for rational drug design. This article considers a marine invertebrate toxin, anabaseine, and describes how manipulation of the structure of this alkaloid has provided a drug candidate which selectively stimulates mammalian brain alpha7 nicotinic receptors. Numerous anabaseine analogs were synthesized and subjected to a variety of pharmacological, behavioral and toxcicological tests. This led to the choice of GTS-21 (also known as 3-(2,4-dimethoxybenzylidene)-anabaseine or DMXBA), as a drug candidate for the treatment of Alzheimer's dementia. The chemical and pharmacological properties of GTS-21 are compared with those of the initial lead compound, anabaseine.

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